Hey Volvo, how do I look today?
There may have been a time when people were more concerned over their privacy than their convenience, but those days are long behind us, replaced by the age of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. And the next frontier could be the interior of your car.
Car reports that Volvo is planning to install cameras inside its vehicles starting later this year. The optical sensors, the automaker insists, are being implemented to monitor driver behavior and other biometrics. But their arrival could raise concerns that the manufacturer could be spying on its vehicles' occupants.
"Driver-facing cameras will become an option in our cars in 2019,” Volvo's chief digital officer Atif Rafiq told Car. "They’re very advanced these days: they can determine a driver’s glucose levels by looking at their pupils, so could call a loved one or hospital if it detected a health problem. Cars will understand your state and destress you on your way back from work.”
The Swedish automaker has been testing in-car cameras since 2014 when it studied drivers in Shanghai (just up-river from its parent company Geely's home base in Hangzhou) to assess their stress levels. It's since been using cameras for its autonomous-vehicle program.
Beyond monitoring drivers, Volvo projects that its in-car cameras could be used for other purposes. "Cameras can be used for video conferencing and ID purposes too,” said Rafiq. "Your car will recognise you and set your Google apps, climate control and seating position for you. It’s very clever.”
It'll be interesting to see how customers will react to the presence of the cameras in their cars, particularly given the company's Chinese ownership. But if the proliferation of "digital assistants” in our homes and mobile devices is any indication, it could soon become the new norm.